WNC science centers awarded NC Science Museum grants from ARPA funds

Henderson County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Wendy Frye dipped into the shark tank with Team ECCO staff during Clear Creek Elementary's field trip in the summer of 2021.

RALEIGH — Fifty-five science centers across the state have been awarded a total of $6.3 million in special grants as part of the North Carolina Science Museums Grant Program, and included in that list are six counties in Western North Carolina — Henderson, Buncombe, Transylvania, Rutherford, Avery and Macon.

For Henderson County, Hands On! – A Child’s Gallery (Hands On! Children’s Museum) was awarded $106,619.86, and Aquarium & Shark Lab by Team ECCO received $71,884.28. In Buncombe County, the awards were as follows: The North Carolina Arboretum Society, $127,048.34; Asheville Museum of Science, $122,961.09 and Friends of the WNC Nature Center, $96,904.49.

Radio telescopes look skyward at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) north of Rosman.

For Transylvania County, Cradle of Forestry Heritage Site was awarded $117,770.91, and Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute got $106,789.89.

Funding for these special grants is made possible by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as directed by the 2021 State Budget, according to an Oct. 6 press release. Grants were awarded based on state-legislated criteria that promote the priorities of state government, with a primary goal of enhancing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education opportunities for the public, particularly in low-resource communities.

A trail near Bent Creek Road at the N.C. Arboretum.

“The North Carolina Science Museums Grant Program helps fund crucial science education across our state,” said D. Reid Wilson, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, in the release. “This investment of federal funds by the legislature and the Governor will increase access to STEM experiences no matter where you live in North Carolina.”

The awards ranged from $70,000 to $185,000 and will be applied to spending in a federal timeline for ARPA funding that covers expenditures from 2022 through 2025 at these science centers.

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